Friday, October 19, 2007

The Economist - Abortion And The Law, Safe Legal and Falling- Restrictive Laws Do Not Reduce Abortion.

Abortion and the law - Safe, legal and falling - Restrictive laws do not reduce abortion

WHEN Catholic clergy or “pro-life” politicians argue that abortion laws should be tightened, they do so in the belief that this will reduce the number of terminations. Yet the largest global study of abortion ever undertaken casts doubt on that simple proposition. Restricting abortions, the study says, has little effect on the number of pregnancies terminated. Rather, it drives women to seek illegal, often unsafe backstreet abortions leading to an estimated 67,000 deaths a year. A further 5m women require hospital treatment as a result of botched procedures.

In Africa and Asia, where abortion is generally either illegal or restricted, the abortion rate in 2003 (the latest year for which figures are available) was 29 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. This is almost identical to the rate in Europe—28—where legal abortions are widely available. Latin America, which has some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, is the region with the highest abortion rate (31), while western Europe, which has some of the most liberal laws, has the lowest (12).

The study, carried out by the Guttmacher Institute in New York in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and published in a British medical journal, the Lancet, found that most abortions occur in developing countries—35m a year, compared with just 7m in rich countries. But this was largely a reflection of population size. A woman's likelihood of having an abortion is similar whether she lives in a rich country (26 per 1,000) or a poor or middle-income one (29).

Lest it be thought that these sweeping continental numbers hide as much as they reveal, the same point can be made by looking at those countries which have changed their laws. Between 1995 and 2005, 17 nations liberalised abortion legislation, while three tightened restrictions. The number of induced abortions nevertheless declined from nearly 46m in 1995 to 42m in 2003, resulting in a fall in the worldwide abortion rate from 35 to 29. The most dramatic drop—from 90 to 44—was in former communist Eastern Europe, where abortion is generally legal, safe and cheap. This coincided with a big increase in contraceptive use in the region which still has the world's highest abortion rate, with more terminations than live births.

The risk of dying in a botched abortion is only part of a broader problem of maternal health in poor countries. Of all the inequalities of development, this is arguably the worst. According to a report published this week by Population Action International, a Washington-based lobby group, women in poor countries are 250 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women in rich ones. Of the 535,000 women who died in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications in 2005, 99% were in developing countries, according to another report by a group of UN agencies, including WHO, also out this week. Africa accounted for more than half such deaths.

As the UN report noted, countries with the highest levels of maternal mortality have made the least progress towards reducing it. A woman in Africa has a one in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared with one in 3,800 for a woman in the rich world.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Majority of Women Want Abortion Legalised

Majority of women want abortion legalised
Carl O'Brien, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Irish Times. Saturday 29th 2007.

A large majority of women now believe the Government should legislate to provide abortion in Ireland, according to an Irish Times /Behaviour & Attitudes poll on women today.
A total of 54 per cent of women believe the Government should act to permit abortion. While support is highest among young and single women, a majority of most age groups favour allowing abortion.

Support for abortion in the circumstances of the X case where there is a real and substantial risk to the life and health of the mother increases further to 69 per cent.

The poll results also show that large numbers of women (42 per cent) personally know someone who has had an abortion in the past.

The figures are part of the first comprehensive opinion poll on women, aimed at capturing their views on key topics such as finance, sex and relationships. It was conducted last month among a national quota sample of 1,000 women at 100 sampling points around the State.

Today's results show major differences between younger and older women across a range of social and moral issues.

On immigration, a majority (66 per cent) believe there are far too many immigrants. This belief is strongest among older women (73 per cent) and is lowest among younger women (56 per cent).

In contrast, a majority of women say they would not be disappointed if their son or daughter married a foreign national, suggesting opposition to immigration may be based on socio-economic rather than racial grounds.

Age-related differences are also clear in the sexual life of younger and older women. The majority have had an average of one to three sexual partners (65 per cent). Younger women are more likely to have had more sexual partners.

Almost half of women aged 18-34 say they have had between one and three sexual partners, a further 25 per cent say they have had four to six sexual partners, while one in 10 say they have had between seven and 10 sexual partners.

Younger women are also more likely to have had a same-sex experience, although the numbers are small. A total of 5 per cent of women say they have had been involved with someone of the same sex. The rate is highest among 18-34s (8 per cent), falling to half that rate among older age groups.

Sharp age-related differences are clear when women are asked whether couples living together before marriage is a good idea. The vast majority of younger women believe it is a good idea to cohabit before getting married, although it is opposed by most over-65s.

Younger women are also much more likely to believe they will become divorced or separated at some stage in their life.

Crime is by far the issue which concerns women most - 93 per cent say they are either extremely worried, very concerned or somewhat concerned about it. Levels of concern are lowest among young women, but reach 98 per cent among older women.

The vast majority of all women agree that married couples should enter into pre-nuptial agreements